It is one of the nation’s most notable charities, raising nearly $70 million in 17 years, and this year’s nonprofit Celebrity Fight Night will be a particularly special, black-tie event — it’s Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday.
Originated in 1994 by long-time Arizona resident, Jimmy Walker, the event featured local celebrities who donned oversized boxing gloves and entered the ring for a friendly match of boxing in efforts to raise money for local charities.
Two years later, boxing legend Muhammad Ali became involved in the event. Since then, Celebrity Fight Night has traded celebrity duke outs for live auctions and big name entertainment to help raise donations for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, along with many notable smaller charities.
With the annual event set to commence for its 18th year on Saturday, March 24, seven-time returning emcee, Reba McEntire; 13-time returning musical director, David Foster; and live performances from Rascal Flatts, Lionel Richie, Miley Cyrus and many more, will help to celebrate Ali’s 70th birthday and raise yet another astonishing amount of charitable donations.
As expectations for the evening are set high, Executive Director Sean Currie describes his involvement with the foundation, “as a blessing to be able to donate.” Marking his 15th consecutive year with Celebrity Fight Night, Currie adds, “going from a 400-person event to a 1,200 person event and raising millions of dollars has been an amazing experience.”
With the audience comprised of well-known celebrities, Currie notes that, “this year, unlike many years in the past has been incredible in the amount of seats we have sold, but not just that, the high-priced seats in the front were the ones that went first, which is something we haven’t seen in years past.”
Those lucky attendees will enjoy a night filled with live entertainment and live and silent auctions on items you normally wouldn’t be able to get your hands on. As Currie gave light to a possible duet with Lionel Richie and Rascal Flatts, the evening will honor this year’s 2012 Muhammad Ali Celebrity Fight Night Award winners — Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals; Bill Austin, CEO and founder of Starkey Labs; and Diane and Bruce Halle, philanthropists and founders of Discount Tire.
“[These] are good people with strong characters that represent what Muhammad stands for,” Currie says. “Each honoree makes the world a better place through their charities and what they do in their specific field.”
In attempts to create an event unlike those in the past, Currie looks forward to the celebration of Ali’s 70th birthday the most.
“I’m excited for seeing Muhammad Ali excited for everyone to sing him happy birthday,” Currie says. “When you see his eyes light up and a smile come across his face that you don’t get to see as much anymore, it really warms your heart to see that you made a difference in his life and the opportunity to give back to many people.”